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ARTICLES Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman: “As a man, a soldier, and a general, he had few, if any, superiors.”

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The words used to describe Lloyd Tilghman are brave, heroic, patriotic, loyal and totally devoted to the cause he believed in.  Confederate Colonel A. E. Reynolds once said of Tilghman that “as a man, a soldier, and a General, he had few if any superiors.”  He also has been described as a strict disciplinarian who abided to the military rules and regulations of the army, and many volunteer officers, who did not understand military rules and regulations, did not get along with Tilghman.  This one was one of the main reasons why Tilghman has been seen in a negative light.  His surrender at Fort Henry also had played a large part in casting Tilghman in a negative light.  After the surrender of Ft. Henry, Tilghman was used as a scapegoat for the bungling of others.  With these facts taken into account, and Tilghman’s brave stand at Champion’s Hill, Tilghman must be remembered as a general who was brave and totally devoted to his cause.

General Lloyd Tilghman in full uniform

A Proud Family Tradition

Tilghman was born on January 26, 1816 near Claiborne, Maryland and came from a family tradition steeped in military tradition.  His ancestors also played an important role in the early history of our country.  His grandfather was a Senator in the Continental Congress.  Because of Tilghman’s family background, he was admitted to West Point.  While at West Point, Tilghman would be brevetted 2nd Lieutenant of the 1st Dragoons and became a Second Lieutenant of the 1st Dragoons on September 1836.  While at West Point, Tilghman would learn the skills to be an engineer, a career that was very highly sought after in the American market.  The ever expanding railroads needed skilled engineers.  Tilghman graduated from West Point on October 1, 1836, but Tilghman resigned his commission in the military and decided that he would try his luck in the civilian sector.

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Mexican War

From 1837 to 1845 Tilghman worked as an engineer on several different railroads.  But in 1845 Tilghman decided to join the Army.  The Mexican War had broken out and he felt it was his personal duty to fight for his country. Tilghman arrived at Corpus Christi in September 1845 and became a sutler supplying the army.  Once the army found out that Tilghman was a Lieutenant in the Dragoons, he immediately became the aide de camp for General David Twiggs, who commanded the 2nd Dragoons.

During the Mexican War, Tilghman helped make reconnaissances of enemy positions, fought in the battle of Monterrey, took command of a partisan corps of twenty men and fought with the enemy at La Mesa, La Puerta and Sueesties.  By 1847 Tilghman was at Matamoros and helped build the defenses and fortifications around the city.  Later that year Tilghman became a Captain and commanded a light artillery battery of six guns to serve with the Maryland and District of Columbia Volunteer Light Artillery.  Tilghman was stationed with his battery at Jalapa.  In 1848 Tilghman made several expeditions to Montigo, and at Mantoosco he relieved Captain Wheat, who was surrounded by six hundred men, and Wheat only had twenty men.  Tilghman’s one hundred men came to his rescue.  The Mexican War ended on February 2, 1848.  Tilghman learned valuable lessons during the Mexican War.  He honed his skills as an engineer and became the leader of men.

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Career as an Engineer

After the war, Tilghman returned to his civilian life.  He became a Chief Engineer for many railroads but in 1852 Tilghman moved to Kentucky to help build the Paducah branch of the Mobile and Ohio railroad.  Tilghman bought a beautiful ten room antebellum mansion in Paducah and settled into civilian life.  He had several children by his wife Augusta Murray Boyd.  Life was good for Tilghman.  He was making good money and was at the top of his profession.  Tilghman officially became a resident of the state of Kentucky in 1852.

Tilghman Becomes a General

The Greek who held the pass, the Roman who for a time held the bridge have been immortalized in rhyme and story.  But neither of those more heroically, more patriotically, more singly served his country than did Tilghman at Fort Henry
   —Confederate President Jefferson Davis

In December of 1860 Tilghman decided to join the Kentucky State Guard.  The Kentucky State Guard became one of the best militia organizations in the United States.  Tilghman became a Major in the Paducah Southwest Battalion.  But all this would end when shots were fired at Fort Sumter in April of 1861.  The country was now at war.  Tilghman was commander of the western division of the Kentucky State Guard, which included the Paducah and Columbus area in Kentucky.  Tensions in the state quickly came to a boil.  Tilghman had to make his decision: would he stay loyal to the Union or join the Confederacy?  The decision could not have been an easy one, but on July 5, 1861, Tilghman and the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, Company D, joined the Confederacy.  His commander of the Kentucky State Guard, Simon Buckner and Tilghman saw in their eyes that the government was not following the Constitutionality of State Rights.  They saw the Union forces invading their state against the will of the people to remain neutral.  This one event would change Tilghman’s life forever.  His trail would lead to a series of events that would influence the outcome of the Civil War.

After Tilghman resigned from the Kentucky State Guard, he became commander of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, C. S.  He had the almost impossible task to arm his men with weapons, clothes and accouterments.  On September 6, 1861, Brig. General Ulysses S. Grant entered the city of Paducah.  Grant says that when he entered the city Tilghman had left with his army.  Grant took the city without firing a gun.  After leaving Paducah, Tilghman and his 3rd Kentucky fell back to Camp Boone, Tennessee.  On October 18, 1861, Tilghman was promoted to Brigadier General.  Tilghman was then sent to Hopkinsville, Kentucky where he trained three thousand men, although getting arms for these men was a massive undertaking.  On October 27, 1861 Tilghman wrote to Albert Sidney Johnston that “a vast deal of suffering exists, owing to the condition of the men.  I have made arrangements for 200 women to work on clothing, and hope for a better contribution of blankets and clothing from the society at this place.”  He also mentions in the letter that he was sorry to hear about the “inefficient condition of things at Fort Donelson.”  At the end of the letter, Tilghman made a plea for artillery, wagons, mules, harnesses, forage and horses for his artillery commands.  During this time most of the arms and ammunition being made in Nashville, Tennessee and the surrounding area was being sent east to supply the Army of Northern Virginia.

Fort Henry Days

Battle of Forts Henry and Donelson

On November 17, 1861 Tilghman was sent to Forts Henry and Donelson and was to take control of the forts and their defenses.  With Tilghman’s military experience and engineering skills, it seemed that Tilghman was the perfect man for the task.  But the forts were not equipped and were in horrible shape.  He had one thousand unarmed men.  Tilghman wrote to Confederate General Leonidas Polk, the district commander, that he needed more manpower to complete the forts, but none came.  Tilghman was loyal to the Confederacy and would try and make the best of the situation.  Tilghman worked diligently in building earthworks and rifle pits as well as securing the approaches to the forts.  By January 1862 Tilghman felt that work on the forts had progressed, but still he had two thousand men who were unarmed, and he knew that the Union troops would soon arrive to try and take the forts.

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Fate now worked against Tilghman.  Fort Henry was built on low ground and the fort was quickly filling with water from the river.  The lower part of the fort was under water.  The mines that were placed in the river to prevent the Union gunboats from approaching the forts were also under water.  Tilghman knew that an enemy with any common sense in obtaining high ground could control the entire fort, but again Tilghman would carry out his orders and defend the fort.  Tilghman’s 2,600 poorly armed men at Fort Henry would have to take on Grant’s 16,000 Federal troops.

On February 6, 1862 at 10:15 a.m. the attack began on Fort Henry.  Union Admiral Andrew Foote’s gunboats and Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s infantry approached the fort.  At 12:35 a.m. fate again intercepted during the battle.  Tilghman’s 24 pounder burst, and then he lost his 10-inch Columbiad when it was accidentally spiked.  Several of the 32 pounders were lost.  Tilghman knew it was time to fall back to Fort Donelson, but after seeing his courageous men working the batteries at Fort Henry, he decided to stay to the end.  Tilghman sent the rest of the Confederate army at Fort Henry to Fort Donelson while his one hundred men endured the fire from the gunboats that was falling into Fort Henry.  The gunboats soon got to within six hundred yards of the fort.  At 1:10 p.m. Tilghman’s men were exhausted and only four cannons were left at the fort.  At 1:30 p.m. Tilghman himself took charge of the one of the 32 pounders.  Tilghman looked around and saw most of the crews were killed or wounded and that the gunboats were breaching the fort.  He decided to stop the useless loss of life and surrender.  After two and a half hours of fighting, Tilghman surrendered.  Tilghman’s plan of saving the Confederate army at Fort Henry worked.  He had bought enough time for the rest of his command to fall back to Fort Donelson.  Tilghman was commended by Flag Officer Foote after the Battle of Fort Henry.  He said Tilghman was “gallant in his defense of the fort.”  Col. Heiman said Tilghman was heroic.  But Tilghman’s work to preserve his army came to an end when the bungling Generals John B. Floyd and Gideon Pillow surrendered Fort Donelson.  During the Battle of Fort Donelson, the Confederates could have escaped capture, because the army had broken out of the fort, but Gideon Pillow and John Floyd decided to fall back to the fort, all but sealing their fate.

Tilghman's Model 1850 Foot Officers' Sword with brass mounted leather scabbard and militia sword belt

The fall of Forts Henry and Donelson would have detrimental effects on the Confederacy in the Western Theater.  The Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers were now open to invasion from Union forces.  The Confederate earthworks and cannons protecting the Mississippi River from Union invasion at Columbus, Kentucky were abandoned.  Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, who was the commander of the Confederate forces in Kentucky, abandoned his defense line in Kentucky and his headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  He pulled all the way back to Corinth, Mississippi, giving up the valuable city of Nashville, Tennessee, which led to the Battle of Shiloh, in April of 1862.  The next city to fall was New Madrid, Missouri on the Mississippi River.  After the fall of New Madrid came the surrender of Fort Pillow, the last remaining stronghold between Island Number 10 and Memphis, Tennessee.  The fort was abandoned on June 4, 1862.  Memphis surrendered on June 6.  The Mississippi River was slowly coming under the control of Union forces.

After the Battle of Fort Henry, Tilghman became a prisoner of war and was sent to Fort Warren.  On August 27, 1862 Tilghman was exchanged for Union General John Reynolds.  Ten thousand men were also exchanged.  These men were now under the command of Tilghman.  Tilghman had to equip, clothe and arm these men.  He also had to form them into artillery, cavalry and infantry units.

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Battle of Coffeeville, Mississippi

By October 1862 Union General Ulysses Grant began his move toward Vicksburg, Mississippi.  On December 5, 1862, Grant was following the Mississippi Central Railroad.  This path would lead him directly to Tilghman’s forces at Coffeeville, Mississippi.  At 2:30 p.m., fighting began in Coffeeville, where Grant’s forces had pushed a mile into the town.  General Lovell, commander of the First Corps, had sent a division of Tilghman’s to check the advance.  Lovell rode with Tilghman to the front and sent the First Brigade under Brig. Gen. Baldwin on the right of the main road leading into Water Valley.  Col. A. P. Thompson and the 3rd Kentucky were sent on the road leading out of Coffeeville to the west of the main road to watch the left flank.  Artillery was brought up and soon an artillery duel broke out.  Tilghman’s rifled guns soon silenced the Union cannon.  General Tilghman asked permission to advance on the enemy.  Permission was granted and Tilghman ordered the 14th Mississippi, under General Ross, which had been in reserve, to take position on the extreme right of his line.  The cavalry under Col. W. H. Jackson was made ready and moved to the rear of the main line.  General Rust, with two brigades on Tilghman’s right, was also made ready.  Tilghman then ordered Col. Thompson, General Rust and General Ross to advance.  As soon as they got to within two hundred yards, the Yankees opened fire on the Confederates.  Col. Thompson ordered the 9th Arkansas and 8th Kentucky to return fire and press the enemy.  Even though the Yankees made two stands, they were quickly driven off.  The Yankees were then pushed to the edge of an open field, where they mounted their horses and retreated.  Once they reached the edge of a wooded area, they dismounted and began to fire at the exposed Confederates who were pursuing them across the open field.

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Tilghman feared that General Rust had not moved far enough to cover his right flank, so he immediately ordered Lt. Barbour, commanding his bodyguard, to move to the extreme right.  As soon as Lt. Barbour moved into position he was immediately fired upon by the Yankees, who by this time had been pushed almost three miles from Coffeeville and commanded the high ground outside of town.  The heaviest fire was now directed down upon the 8th Kentucky and 9th Arkansas, but the Confederates pushed on and soon overran the Yankee position.

Their objective of pushing the enemy was complete, and General Tilghman ordered his men to halt and cease fire.  The Confederates killed thirty-four Union soldiers, including Lt. Col. William McCullough and 2nd Lt. Thomas Woodburn.  They captured seventeen Yankees.  The Confederates lost seven killed and forty-three wounded.  The besting of Grant was in a small measure General Tilghman’s pay back for the defeat he suffered at Grant’s hands at Fort Henry.

To the faithful sons of the Confederate States of America who gave all to uphold the constitutional liberty and States rights.

But this battle did not stop the relentless pursuit of Grant’s forces.  Grant came up with several different plans to try and take Vicksburg.  He built canals.  He tried to maneuver his men and gunboats through the swamps.  Each approach was a failure.  During this time Tilghman led a brigade at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi and was the rear guard at the Battle of Holly Springs.  Grant finally landed his men at Bruinsburg, located below Vicksburg.  Confederate General Pemberton, the commander of Confederate forces in Vicksburg, had to abandon Grand Gulf and fall back to the city of Vicksburg.  Grant then gave up his supply base at Grand Gulf and decided to surround Vicksburg.

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Battle of Champion's Hill and Tilghman's Death

On May 16, 1863, at Champion’s Hill, Mississippi, Tilghman had a force of only 1,550 men, which was being forced back by six to eight thousand men of Grant’s army.  Tilghman dismounted and took command of a section of field artillery of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery.  He was in the act of sighting a howitzer when he was struck in the hip by a cannonball from the Chicago Mercantile Battery’s number two gun.  General Tilghman lived about three hours after he was wounded and was carried to a peach tree where he died in the arms of General Powhattan Ellis.  On July 4, 1863 Vicksburg, Mississippi fell to Grant’s forces after a prolonged siege.  The end of the Confederacy was now even closer.  The surrender of Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two.  The Key to the Confederate Heartland was now in Lincoln’s pocket.

After the war in 1878 Confederate President Jefferson Davis said of General Tilghman:

Martyrdom has generally been considered, and with reason, a fruit of the sanctity of the cause in which the martyr died.  You know how many examples your army furnished of men who piously served and piously died from wounds received in battle.  The proofs of martyrdom if I were to attempt to enumerate, would exceed your time and my strength on this occasion.  Yet I am not willing to pass by as silent memory some of those examples of heroism, of patriotism, of devotion to country which the Army of Tennessee furnished.  The Greek who held the pass, the Roman who for a time held the bridge have been immortalized in rhyme and story.  But neither of those more heroically, more patriotically, more singly served his country than did Tilghman at Fort Henry, when approached by a large army, an army which rendered the permanent defense of the fort impossible, with a handful of devoted followers went into the fort and continued the defense until his brigade could retire in safety to Fort Donelson; then when that work was finished, when it was impossible any longer to make a defense, when the wounded and dying lay all around him, he, with the surviving remnant of his little band, terminated the struggle and suffered in a manner thousands of you who have been prisoners of war know how to estimate.  All peace and honor to his ashes, for he was among those, not the most unhappy, who went hence before our bitterest trials came upon us.

Tilghman was survived by his wife Augusta Murray Boyd, and his three sons; Lt. Lloyd Tilghman, Jr., Frederick and Sidell.  Unfortunately two months after Tilghman’s death, his son Lt. Lloyd Tilghman, Jr. was thrown from his horse, hit his head on a piece of rail iron and died instantly.  Another Tilghman gave up his life for the cause.

Remembrance of a Fallen General

After the Civil War, General Tilghman’s widow brought their surviving children to New York.  In 1901, Tilghman was removed from his grave site in Mississippi and moved to New York City.  The General’s sons wanted their father to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery next to their mother, who died in New York in 1898.  After the war, Fred Tilghman became Vice President of the National Humane Alliance of New York.  He helped raise funding for a monument to his father General Tilghman in Paducah.  The Paducah Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy paid $5,000 dollars and the sons of General Tilghman paid about $10,000 dollars for the statue.  On May 16, 1909 General Tilghman’s monument was unveiled in Paducah, Kentucky.  The monument is inscribed with “Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, C.S.A. Killed in the Battle of Champion’s Hill, Miss.  May 16, 1863.  To the faithful sons of the Confederate States of America who gave all to uphold the constitutional liberty and States rights.”  The monument was made by H. H. Kitson, of New York and Boston.  The monument, six feet fall and standing on a mount, is a life-size likeness of General Tilghman in full uniform.

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On May 19, 1926 Frederick and Sidell Tilghman donated to the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park another monument to their father.  The monument shows Tilghman with one hand grasping the reins of his horse while his other clutches his sword.  The sculptor was F. William Sievers.

In 1921 the Tilghman family donated the funds to buy land for the Tilghman High School in Paducah.  The school was actually named after Augusta Tilghman, but when it was rebuilt in the 1950s it became Paducah Tilghman High School in honor of the entire family.  The school still exists to this present day.

In 1992 the Tilghman Heritage Center and Civil War Interpretive Museum (now called the Lloyd Tilghman House & Civil War Museum) began with the acquisition of the Tilghman home in Paducah, Kentucky, with the sole purpose of restoring the building and creating a cultural asset for the community.  From 1992 to 1996 federal and state grants were pursued with the no success.  The building was condemned by the City of Paducah.  However, in 1997, the center’s board of directors prevented it from being torn down by starting Phase I with a private capital investment of $150,000 dollars.  The Tilghman Heritage Foundation, including Phil and Rose Phillips, who run Dixie Leather Works in Paducah, and Howard Randle made Phase I completion a reality.  With the Tilghman House having been beautifully restored to its former beauty, the next phase of the project to open a museum was subsequently completed.  The Tilghman home was built in 1852 and is a six thousand foot antebellum, federal style house.

Tilghman’s presentation sword, which was presented to Tilghman by Col. A. P. Thompson, of the 3rd Kentucky, was published for the first time in 1998 in The Civil War Battles of the Western Theatre by the author.  Also showcased at the Civil War Battles of the Western Theater Museum in Bardstown, Kentucky is Tilghman’s line sword, which was presented to him while he was the commander at Fort Henry.  In Summer 2006, the author will have a book published on General Tilghman.  Tilghman must be commended for his bravery, his unwavering sense of loyalty and duty to his country, and to the Confederate cause he believed was right.

Lloyd Tilghman is the subject of Bryan's book Lloyd Tilghman: Confederate General in the Western Theatre.
This specific article is under full copyright.  Copyright © 2006, All Rights Reserved.
Modified Saturday, January 13, 2007

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